Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
If there's one thing that woos love, it's the genetic fallacy: The idea that some quality of the arguer changes the validity of his arguments. One of those particularly popular with trolls is intelligence, either boasting about their own supposed genius, or our alleged retardation. Granted, we're all certainly guilty of calling a number of woos idiots, but as skeptics typically go, that, by itself, is not fallacious, just rude:
The key difference between the typical skeptic and typical woo troll is that the skeptic doesn't base his arguments off of any supposed IQ scores, while the woo typically does. "You're an idiot, therefore your argument is wrong!" is an ad homenim fallacy. "You used fallacies X, Y, and Z, therefore you're an idiot!" is a legitimate argument mixed with a non-fallacious (but irrelevant) ad homenim.
Of course, there's more to this doggerel than just the ad homenim: It's often the basis for arguments from incredulity or ignorance. As one ufology woo who stopped by here said,
"A lot of pretty intelligent people have gone on record with very unusual observances, and they all didn't mistake traffic lights in foggy conditions for flying discs, etc."The problem is that intelligence is not a shield against all the foibles humans are subject to. Anyone can say or do stupid things. Sometimes it's a lack of knowledge that's the culprit: Astronomers are the demographic least likely to report a UFO. Why? Probably because they specialize in looking up at the sky and identifying the myriad of objects that show up there. In other cases, it's instilled belief and prejudice. If I looked up and saw some dark object zip by, I'd probably guess it's a bird or some other mundane thing, and maybe remember, falsely or otherwise, a flapping motion. An ufologist, however, would also be at risk of false memory and describe radical movements, distances, and so forth. In other cases, it's arrogance: Thinking too much of your intelligence tends to make a person assume he knows all the possibilities: If he can't identify it as something he knows, he'll assume it's an alien spacecraft by default.
That last one is the big fallacy of a famous quote:
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. -Arthur Conan DoyleIt presumes that you already know of all the possibilities, something a person who overestimates his intelligence is more likely to do, and thus, perform an argument from ignorance and/or incredulity. If you start thinking like Doyle, you'll find yourself presuming fantastic woo when "I don't know" would serve you much better and leave you open to new possibilities.